Trash-to-Gas: Determining the Ideal Technology for Converting Space Trash into Useful Products
Anthony, Stephen M.
Hintze, Paul E.
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The goal of the Trash-to-Gas project is to develop space technology alternatives for converting trash and other human spaceflight waste materials into high-value products. A major milestone for this task was to select one of five potential technologies to carry forward for future development. Experimental data were reported for each technology in the areas of (1) trash processing, (2) product generation, and (3) system size and operating conditions. Models were developed to scale up each technology to an end-to-end system capable of processing the mass of trash generated by a crew of four on a one-year spaceflight mission. The experimental and model data for each technology were evaluated and compared using key performance parameters that were developed for two operational scenarios with different primary goals: full conversion of trash to methane, or conversion of trash to gases for venting or thermal expansion (resistojet) propulsion. Steam reforming technology scored highest in both scenarios, and is the focus of current efforts to optimize pre- and post- processing of the waste materials, and integration into mission scenarios where the gases produced from waste can be most beneficial.